Prep for Fall Applications in the Summer

If you have kids in middle school and you are looking ahead to high school, both private and public school are options you may be considering. Well, private high school means taking the ISEE.

What is the ISEE?  It’s the Independent School Entrance Exam.  It’s a test that allows a school to assess the academic level of the student who is applying.  If your child is taking this test, it should be all about doing their best.  This gives a target school a better idea of where your child is academically so you can understand whether or not that school is a good fit for your child.

Doing your best on anything involves preparation.  So in order to make sure your child is prepared, you should plan ahead.  Most school applications are due in December and January.  Applications typically have a fee so you’ll want to consider how many schools to apply to and make sure they are schools you know you wanted to attend. This means you need to visit schools and attend open houses.  Those visits usually happen in October and November.  September is a crazy month with back to school.  So, you should plan to get an ISEE test date chosen AND your child needs to be prepared.  Summer is the best time for that preparation in light of all of the activity that will be happening before applications are due.

Since I work at Varsity Tutors, I would obviously recommend them.  Early summer is a great time to arrange to have a tutor assigned.  Before the tutor starts, find a time to talk with the tutor on the phone. Find out if the tutor recommends any ISEE related books.  Many ISEE tutors suggest planning on 2 sessions to focus on just test preparation in general and then 2 sessions each for the 3 different sections of the test.  If you set up a time to meet each week you’ll also have time to do study assignments between each session.

With summer camps, vacations and all the things that summer brings, it is great to get this organized as you head into the summer.  And when Fall hits, you know you’ll be ready to focus on school visits and the typical demands of the 8th grade.  For the test itself, if you have a child on a 504 plan you can get an accommodation for extra time on the test but you need to remember to ask for it.

Even if you ultimately choose public school over private school, test taking strategies are valuable to any teen, especially in high school.  Even as tutors focus on the test specific material, there will be a lot of discussion on test taking strategies in general.

Time well spent!

‘Cause I Want to Decide Between Survival and Bliss


Great lyrics from a great song* that has helped me through a pretty big decision about our daughter’s education.

‘Cause I want to decide between survival and bliss

And though I know who I’m not, I still don’t know who I am

But I know I won’t keep on playing the victim

We’ve decided to pull our daughter out of public school and have her attend a private school that focuses on teaching children who are challenged with Dyslexia; children who are visual learners.

We’ve figured out who we are not.  She is not a verbal learner.  We’ve been limping along for the last 2 years.  Our daughter was put on a 504 plan in the 3rd grade.  This helped.  Extra time on tests and modified assignments seemed to get her through.  Her 5th grade year has been a lot tougher – and her grades reflected the reality that I was witnessing in the daily struggles of homework.

When that first report card came home, we decided to keep our daughter home from her own parent teacher conference so we could have a candid conversation about how poorly she was showing up on the report card.  This lead to evaluations and more evidence of her learning style and the impact it is having.  2 key data points popped out at me:

1. 99th percentile for math concepts such as geometry–anything truly conceptual, spacial or visual

2. 8th percentile for anything fluency related – reading, writing, math

If a concept is taught using visual aids, no problem.  But if a concept is taught with verbal instruction, which is exactly how a 5th grade classroom of 30 kids is set up, disaster.  As my daughter would work on assignments, the teacher HAD provided a checklist of the elements that needed to be covered or a worksheet with a written summary of the assignment.  But when asked about the details that had been explained in class about each element, all was hazy.  The devil is in the details and those details were being lost.

The impact on our daughter went well beyond the homework table or the classroom.  Her confidence was destroyed.  She withdrew more and more.  This resulted in problems with developing healthy friendships at school and the inability to ask her teachers or her peers for help when she needed it.  She was falling victim to a vicious cycle.

Evaluations brought us to the conclusion that an IEP would be required. I’ve been managing an IEP for my son for over 10 years.  Honestly, I didn’t have it in me to manage another one.  We’ve been able to make things work for him and he is thriving.  But as I looked at what this would mean for my daughter, it just didn’t make sense.

This bright, creative young lady who can make her own dolls clothes without a pattern and put a piece of furniture from IKEA together with little assistance is in a school system that treats her learning style as a problem.  They are not set up to understand or handle the fact that it’s just different.

And this is what the decision came down to.  Do we spend the next few years just “surviving” within the school system and feeling like a victim of it?  Or do we choose another path where she has the opportunity to potentially thrive, to find some “bliss” in her education?

Having BOTH of my children drop out of the typical school system is daunting, overwhelming.  But for the first time in a long time, I am optimistic for her and her future.

She had the opportunity to attend her new school before we made our final decision.  In the car ride home, I saw an optimism in her that I haven’t seen in a while.  She said the other kids “read out loud like her and struggled with a few words here and there like her”.  At her other school, as her turn would approach to read out loud, she said she would get very nervous, so nervous that she would start sweating.  Several other examples of the anxiety she experiences every day at school came pouring out of her.  And she believes she won’t experience this in her new school and that she will be able to learn a lot.

I’m grateful that I have the ability to work with my ex-husband to provide this opportunity for our daughter.  And I’m glad my husband and I have the ability to handle the expense and extra logistics involved.  We are lucky.  I hope other kids in this situation can be as lucky as we are.

*song: Precious Illusions by Alanis Morissette